The tourist friendly country of Bermuda has become the first ever country to repeal same-sex marriage.
Bermuda’s governor has signed into law a bill reversing the right of gay couples to marry, despite a supreme court ruling last year authorizing same-sex marriage.
Walton Brown, Bermuda’s minister of home affairs, said the legislation signed by Governor John Rankin would balance opposition to same-sex marriage on the socially conservative island while complying with European court rulings that ensure recognition and protection for same-sex couples in the territory.
Bermuda’s Senate and House of Assembly passed the legislation by wide margins in December and a majority of voters opposed same-sex marriage in a referendum.
The Associated Press reports:
‘The act is intended to strike a fair balance between two currently irreconcilable groups in Bermuda, by restating that marriage must be between a male and a female while at the same time recognizing and protecting the rights of same-sex couples,’ Brown said.”
The British government could have blocked the territory from enacting the law, the BBC reports, but chose not to. Foreign Minister Harriet Baldwin said that blocking legislation should only happen in “exceptional circumstances,” the British broadcaster reports:
“I feel enormously disappointed,” said Joe Gibbons, a 64-year-old married gay Bermudian. “This is not equality, and the British government has obviously just said, ‘This is not our fight.’”
Human rights groups had lobbied Governor Rankin and the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, to deviate from standard practice in self-governing UK territories and withhold assent for the change. They argued that the new legislation contradicted Bermuda’s constitution, which guarantees freedom from discrimination.
In a debate in the UK’s House of Commons last month, the Labour MP Chris Bryant called the bill a “deeply unpleasant and very cynical piece of legislation”. After the repeal was confirmed, Bryant tweeted that it would “undermine [the] UK effort to advance LGBT rights”.
An estimated 584,000 tourists visit Bermuda a year and that money accounts for an estimated 28% of gross domestic product
Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian Cruise Lines all host LGBT Cruises to Bermuda.